UPDATE: Malaysia: Kartika’s caning sentence commuted to community service

In a Press Statement issued by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Malaysian women's group, one of the most well-known nongovernment groups in this Muslim-majority country, registered their happiness with the decision by Sultan of Pahang, Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, to commute Kartika’s caning sentence to community service. According to Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno's father, Kartika received a letter dated March 26 from the Pahang state Islamic and Malay Culture Council on Wednesday, informing her the Pahang Sultan had decided to spare her the caning. Kartika, a former part-time model, was sentenced in July last year to six strokes of the cane and a fine RM5,000 for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort, in violation of 'Sharia' laws. Meanwhile, The Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) is seeking an order from the High Court to prevent SIS Forum (Malaysia) from using “Sisters In Islam” as its name and identity because of its criticism of the application of these laws.

Her father said Sultan Ahmad Shah had agreed to commute the caning sentence and ordered Kartika to perform community service for three weeks. Kartika told reporters that she had "mixed feelings" about the reprieve. "I was shocked because this was unexpected,” she told the Associated Press. She said she felt “tortured” while waiting to be caned and now feels the punishment should have been carried out. “But I will follow the Sultan’s orders,” AP quoted her as saying.

Kartika said she was ready to carry out the community service although the decision came as a surprise.

“I hope this community service will serve as a lesson to others to stay away from alcohol,” said the single-mother, adding that her two children would be left in the care of her parents at their home in Kampung Jawang, Sungai Siput near here while she completed her sentence.

Kartika was sentenced in July last year to six strokes of the cane and a fine of RM5,000 for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort in Kuantan, in violation of Islamic laws. On Aug 24 2009, she was to be brought to the Kajang Prison to undergo the caning punishment but it was called off at the eleventh hour.

After a period of being in limbo (as to whether the caning punishment would be carried out), the matter was brought before the Sultan and hence this latest development in her case.

In Kuantan, Tengku Mahkota Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said the Sultan exercised his wisdom in lessening the punishment on Kartika.

“The Sultan has the final say in the matter and he also arrived at the decision based on humanitarian grounds,” he told reporters when met after the Pahang-Selangor match in the Tun Abdul Razak Cup hockey tournament at the Pahang Sports Council Hockey Stadium.

In Kuala Lumpur, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz welcomed the decision by the Sultan in commuting the caning sentence on Kartika to community service.

“It is good, it is his prerogative (Sultan’s), I welcome the lessening of the punishment because to me, punishment by caning should be the last resort,” he told reporters at parliament’s lobby.

Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Minister in the Prime Minister Department in charge of religious affairs, also supported the decision by the Sultan to commute the caning sentence on Kartika.

“It is within the Sultan’s powers to commute  the  sentence, all quarters should accept the decision of the Sultan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sisters-in-Islam executive director Dr Hamidah Marican said her organisation also welcomed the decision.  — Bernama

The decision by Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang to commute Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor’s caning sentence to community service was the prerogative of the Ruler, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

“The Sultan is the highest authority in the administration of Islamic matters (in Pahang). He has the discretionary power to mete out sentences based on public interest. He has acted within his power,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

Nazri said this when asked to comment on the action by the Syarie Lawyers Association of Malaysia in questioning the decision to commute the caning sentence.

Kartika Sari Dewi, 33, was ordered by the Sultan to do three weeks of community service at the Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Children’s Home.

The Star/Borne Post & SIS